First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Idit Levine: We are doing as good as can be given how the pandemic has changed everything about our daily lives. Our family has remained healthy so we cannot complain. We live in the Boston area, and we’ve recently started opening schools up again. Hence, our children are able to get some of the in-person socialization, space, and educational support that they are craving. Thankfully the Solo.io team has been healthy too.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Solo.io.
Idit Levine: My career started in Israel. Before entering the tech world, I actually played basketball professionally in Europe. My technical career really started during college, with a double major in computer science and biology, leading to my first software engineering role.
I was a software engineer at several startups and large technology companies, which provided me with a wide range of experience and perspective. Most recently, I served as the CTO of the EMC Cloud Management division and a member of the global CTO Office. While at EMC, I spent a lot of time directly with customers and started up the Pivotal Dojo where I was able to work with new open source projects, got to see how fast they moved, and where software development was headed. I observed the tension between balancing a company’s existing enterprise tech with emerging cloud-native open-source software. This is what led me to start Solo.
As a first-time founder, a woman, and not being based in Silicon Valley, I initially had a difficult time fundraising. That is not really a new story and one we’ve all heard before. We are lucky that the investors that we ultimately partnered with are amazing — they believe in me, in Solo.io’s vision and the company, and have been a tremendous resource as we scale out the company.
How does Solo.io innovate?
Idit Levine: In the last decade, there has been a revolution in the way web applications are built and managed in the cloud. Application networking became simultaneously very complex and very critical. Our mission is to provide users with a complete solution to their application networking that uses the most cutting-edge technologies in the simplest, most effective, and most secure way. Our solutions are built upon our deep understanding of the modern application infrastructure and the space of open-source technologies (including the ones that are still in early development) and on our intimate familiarity with the needs and pains of users across all scales, from startup companies to the largest enterprises. We strive to understand what our customers need today as well as what they will need tomorrow and to provide them with the best solutions for both.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Idit Levine: Despite its name, Solo.io’s greatest strength is in its teamwork. While there are many ways to communicate remotely, none compares to shouting ideas at each other near a whiteboard. Fortunately, our offices have partially reopened recently, giving us the option to come and spend at least some time together, albeit in smaller groups.
As a startup, we were initially quite worried about the business impact of COVID potentially delaying the application modernization projects that use our products. We work with all types of organizations, from startups to enterprises and across every industry. But it turned out that while some of our customers were indeed forced to delay their projects because of the impact on their industries, many others accelerated their application networking projects as the world moved online. So even during these trying times, we’ve been adding new customers and scaling existing ones at a growing pace, and developed strong partnerships with some amazing organizations. We even recently raised a round of financing to scale our operations to meet the rapidly growing customer demand.
We did not let the coronavirus slow us down, and in the last year, we kept delivering new products and industry-first technologies. We’ve ramped up our online presence with educational livestream sessions on cloud-native ecosystem tools, instructor-led workshops, and discussions with industry leaders.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Idit Levine: The key to Solo.io’s success is having the right people, who are original and bold and daring, and are at the same time team players that fit well with the company and its mission. This sometimes involves difficult choices, and I think the key is to not avoid these choices but to make them deliberately and compassionately.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety? How do you project yourself and Solo.io in the future?
Idit Levine: Usually stress or anxiety related to a company is about the unknown, and the unknown sphere can be big with emerging technology spaces like ours. What helps me is that I truly believe in Solo.io’s vision and that our deep understanding of the nuances of the space we are working in allows us to benefit and, more importantly, help our customers benefit from any development in the market.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Idit Levine: The products we offer are agnostic to workload types and specific technology providers. In that way, we are very unique compared to other vendors in the space. Our innovation is focused around enabling technologies and providing a unifying layer of management and security across them, rather than competing with them. We are known in the market for our high velocity, top-quality execution, and attention to customer needs. We don’t plan to stay in the game. We plan to keep leading it.
Your final thoughts?
Idit Levine: While the pandemic has changed certain aspects of our way of life and work, it hasn’t slowed the collective drive for progress and innovation. In many ways, it has made that drive stronger for many individuals and organizations as they work to improve the ways we connect with each other and deliver services digitally. We are excited to be part of this movement and look forward to helping our customers and the industry transform.
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